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Previously: City On Fire, Part 2: Like Old Times
City on Fire
Getting The Scoop
At her desk, at the Daily Bugle, Betty Brant went about her work – writing up her piece on the gang violence in Clinton. She'd taken on the assignment almost three months ago, when people took notice to the increase in gang activity. What caught Betty's attention wasn't just the rise in violence, but its sudden outburst. The gangs always had their disputes and even the occasional gunfight, but so much fighting in just a few months time didn't make any sense. Why have an all-out war now? Even if one side were to win out, they'd lose many of their “troops” and would be easy prey for the other up and coming gangs.
Then there's the vigilantes. Daredevil, Spider-Man, Luke Cage. These heroes would naturally enter the fray to stop the fighting. God help them if the Punisher decided to join in. No, this war made no sense at all... unless there was something behind it. Something pushing the gangs to fight each other. There were no new drugs on the market. No influx in black market weaponry. The only reason that made sense to Betty was that someone was behind it; fueling the gangs into killing each other to make their own take over easier.
The only question now was who? The Kingpin? One of Silvermane's old lieutenants? Maybe a new player altogether. Whoever it was, Betty Brant was determined to reveal their true identity and have them brought to justice.
“Brant!” a loud familiar voice woke Betty from her thoughts. She looked up to see J. Jonah Jameson standing in the doorway of his office. “Brant! My office, now!”
She rolled her eyes and groaned, as she walked to his office. She knew what he was going to complain about – the same thing he'd been complaining about for the last two months. As she entered the office, she instinctively closed the door behind her and sat down.
Jameson sat behind his desk and rubbed the bridge of his nose. “Betty, we've been over this; you can't just write up theories on some kind of “Mastermind” behind this gang war. You need facts and hard evidence.”
She snidely remarked, “Like your solid evidence that Spider-Man is the worst thing to ever plague New York?”
“You let me worry about the wall-crawling menace. You stick to the story I gave you. Speaking of which: Just got word about a hit on one of the Butcher's hideouts. Get Parker to meet you down there and get me something for the front page.”
“Sure thing,” she said, as she stood. “But don't expect me to give up on this, Jonah. There's more to this than just a turf war.”
“Get me some proof and I'll let you print whatever you want; hell, I'll even give you two days paid vacation. 'Til then, do your job and get me a story on my desk by tonight.”
Betty stepped out from her car, as she saw Peter Parker waiting by a stretch of yellow tape. She joined him and looked over the scene. “Get anything good?”
Pete answered, “Not really. Looks like some of the Butcher's were killed though; saw the coroner's van go around back.”
“Looks like we won't be getting much out of this one, Pete.”
At that moment, yelling could be heard, as paramedics carted someone to an ambulance. “The bullets bounced off him, man! We shot him a million times, but he didn't go down!”
Peter was already taking pictures, as Betty grabbed her recorder. She then saw Detective Bolt walk out of the building.
“Detective Bolt!” she yelled. “Over here.”
She could see the frustration on his face, as he made his way over to them. “Hello again, Miss Brant.”
“Detective,” she greeted. Like Jameson, she'd been giving her mastermind theory to a couple of the NYPD detectives; including Detective Bolt.
He said – as though on auto pilot, “Yes, this was apparently another gang shooting. No, there were no civilian fatalities. Yes, there is a survivor. No, you may not talk to him.”
As Peter took a quick picture of the Detective, he remarked to Betty, “This guy's good.”
“But unhelpful,” she responded. “What about the young man screaming about bullets bouncing off someone? Any idea who that could be?”
“The kid's been shot a couple times and is in shock. We'll get a proper statement from him, when he's more stable and then we'll have a statement for the press later.”
“Do you see anyone else here, Walter?” her professional demeanor had vanished. “I'm the only one who's actually giving a damn about what's going on here. Just tell me what you have – off record.”
Peter raised his eyebrows, in surprise. Off the record? JJ's head would explode, if he heard her say that. Hmm, that might be worth seeing.
Detective Bolt glared at her, as he sternly answered, “Well – Betty – given the number of special individuals in this city, I'd have to narrow it down first. Tombstone working for the Princes. Luke Cage trying to clean up the streets. Maybe the Thing decided to go solo? I-do-not-know. How about you go back to your type-writer and let me do my job?”
Before she could respond, he'd already turned his back and walked away. “I'm beginning to think him and Jonah are related; both of them are so damn pig-headed. What do you think, Pete?”
“I dunno'. Can't say I see a resemblance.”
“About who the kid was talking about,” she punched his arm. “Bolt's not serious about Cage or the Thing – even he's not that stupid – but it could be Tombstone.”
“Can't be. He's still locked up, as far as I know. It could be a number of good guys or bad guys. Maybe-?”
While Peter went on, Betty noticed a camera looking out of a nearby convenience store. “Hey, Pete.”
“I think we can find out who our mystery man is,” she pointed to the store. “Good thing I brought some extra cash.”
Fifteen minutes later – and seventy-five dollars poorer – Betty and Peter sat in the back of the convenience store, as they watched the security footage. Fortunately for them, the tape had enough of a vantage point to see most of what happened – at least from outside the building. However, they struck gold, when the stranger walked out of the building and walked over to the convenience store. Betty was overjoyed, when they checked the interior camera footage and found they could see the man's face clear as day.
“Looks like we have our mystery man,” Betty said, as she removed the tapes from the VCR's and slid them into her purse. “He look familiar at all?”
“No bells ringing. So, who gets the tapes first? JJ or Detective Bolt?”
“Sorry, I haven't washed the wax out of my ears in a while. Mind saying that again?”
“If we give this to JJ or Bolt, they'll just say it's another thug and put him on the list of powered criminals in the city. Heck, Jonah would give him some corny name to keep him in the paper for a while to up sales.”
“True. Okay, what's your big plan?”
“We see what we can dig up on this guy. Is he part of a gang or is he another vigilante-hero taking justice into his own hands?”
“I don't know if you wanna put him in the hero category. He killed people. He could be as bad as the Punisher – add to that, he might be bulletproof.”
“Even more reason. If we find out what he's up to, why he's involved – maybe even where he lives – we can give the police enough information so they're better prepared to take him down. We may even have to find Spider-Man or Luke Cage, if this guy is too dangerous for the police.”
Peter thought about it. He wanted to take the tapes to the police, but Betty would try to find this guy no matter what. If he was with her, he'd be able to protect her. “Alrighty, Bets. We'll do it your way. Just do me a favor.”
“If JJ finds out we didn't take the tapes straight to him... you made me do it.”
She smiled and hit him in the arm again. “You're pretty spineless sometimes, Peter Parker.”
“Hey, it's kept me alive so far.”